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Dear Friend:

DON’T MISS IT! Some of you will receive a USPS version of my 2019 survey. Due to printing and postage constraints, I cannot mail to every household in the district, so please complete and share my online survey with your friends and neighbors. It’s important for me to understand your priorities as this session gets underway.
It’s that time again – I’m spending long days and nights in Topeka, working to bring the best legislation back for our communities and all of Kansas. Typically, the Senate doesn’t change much after midterm elections because we are not up for re-election until 2020. However, with the statewide elections plucking three of our colleagues up to higher office, our body made some slight changes and I’m getting to know my new colleagues.

  • Sen. Vic Miller (D-Topeka) got a promotion to the Senate side of the Capitol J. He represented part of Topeka in House and was appointed to fill now-Governor Laura Kelly’s seat.
  • Sen. Eric Rucker (R-Topeka) was appointed by precinct committee leaders in Topeka to replace now-Insurance Commissioner Vicki Schmidt.
  • Sen. Mary Ware (D-Wichita) was appointed by precinct leaders in Wichita to replace now-Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers.
Even though I wasn’t sworn in again, there was a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding the inauguration of Laura Kelly as the state’s new governor, the inaugural ball, her inaugural address to Kansans, and then her State of the State (SOTS) address. Because the House has the larger room, it is tradition for Senators to sit with one of their Representatives for the speech. I was fortunate to sit with Rep. Jan Kessinger (Overland Park).

Senate District 11 Resources:

On the Home Front
  • It was nice to meet with the Kansas Association of Nurse Anesthetists during their visit to the Capitol last week – I have to get back in the swing of taking photos!
  • Thank you to those who joined us for Saturday’s rescheduled town hall meeting. We had a great turnout and hope to see you again next month when Attorney General Derek Schmidt will be joining us:
    • February 23, 9:00 – 10:00 am, Leawood City Hall Council Room

Around the Capitol
In this section of the newsletter, I will detail what is happening before the entire Senate. I encourage you to look at the Calendar each week to see if there are hearings on issues important to your family and business. Your voice as an expert in your field – whether it’s your profession, or a personal expertise you’ve developed in managing your parents’ finances or health care, or your children’s special needs – your legislators benefit greatly from your experience!

On the Senate Floor - Floor Livestream
The SOTS discussed above is the speech that provides an overview of the governor’s priorities for her time in office. Those priorities are laid out with more specificity in the governor’s budget. This is a document required by law to be presented to the legislature, but it rarely comes this soon. However, as my former Senate colleague, I know Governor Kelly to be an expert in the Kansas budget, so she came prepared.
  • Education and Medicaid Expansion are priority planks in this budget, which include money to complete the legislature’s commitment to pay for inflationary cost increases in education funding, as well as $14 million for the state’s part of Medicaid expansion.
    • Improving Medicaid services is also a priority with a $7 million investment and 300 new jobs to improve the application process.
  • Restoring some of the damage done to our state facilities and correcting the damage done to state employees is a top priority, as the budget includes $22.3 million for state employee pay raises (a 2.5% increase) and $3 million to hire corrections officers. 
  • You have likely heard about the critical needs in our foster care system. Funds are also included for dozens of new child welfare employees to cut down on case worker caseloads.
  • The budget also continues the work of restoring cuts our higher education institutions faced over the last decade.
This is a very thorough and thoughtful budget, but it is not without its faults. I look forward to delving deeper into these issues in the coming weeks as we learn more of the details. The full budget comes in two volumes, but I recommend the Budget Director’s Overview for a shorter version.
Actual bill debate on the floor always starts slow because bills must begin with hearings in committees, and once hearings are completed and the bill is debated and “worked up” (changes made) and voted on, then it is considered by the full Senate. In a few weeks, the roles will reverse and the committees will finish their work and we will get busy debating bills before the Senate.

Committee Work
Even though committees hold the keys to start the year by holding hearings on bills, we usually begin each year hearing agency overviews to update us on their activities since we met last spring. That lays a good foundation for the bills which will be considered by the committee that year. Again, once bills are heard, worked up, and voted out to the full Senate, or kept in the committee, then our work begins to wind down.
TransportationLive Audio
The Departments of Transportation and Revenue work closely together, especially as it relates to vehicle issues. We heard a presentation from David Harper, the Department of Revenue’s Director of Vehicles. We also received an update from the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Ethics, Elections & Local GovernmentLive Audio
We hosted Mark Skoglund, Executive Director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission for a review of ethics rules during the session, the activities of the commission since our last meeting in the spring, and a few highlights from the election cycle.
Ways & MeansLive Audio
The committee welcomed a number of briefings to bring us back up to speed for the beginning of the year:
  • Kansas Legislative Research Department (KLRD) gave an overview of the State General Fund, where it stands now and where we are going.
  • Alan Conroy, Director of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) provided a system update.
  • The committee met with our House counterparts in the Appropriations Committee for a joint hearing on the governor’s budget.
  • Mental Health Task Force Report
  • Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities
  • Kansas impact from the federal farm bill
  • An update on recent audit reports from the Division of Post Audit
We held our first bill hearing on SB 9, which would move $115 million from the state general fund into KPERS during this fiscal year, cutting a huge chunk out of the financial cushion we could use to pay for Medicaid Expansion, to comply with the inflationary spending order for K-12 schools, etc. I’m not sure this bill will go anywhere, but it certainly made a point.

It is an honor to serve you in Topeka. Please feel free to contact me anytime regarding these or other legislative issues. 

Very truly yours,

John Skubal
Senator, 11
th District
913-469-6641 (H)

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